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Camera phones add 'beep' to smile

About 20 percent of South Korea's mobile phones have a camera.
About 20 percent of South Korea's mobile phones have a camera.

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SEOUL, South Korea (Reuters) -- Alarmed at the use of camera phones to catch individuals in compromising situations, South Korea has ordered manufacturers to ensure that all new handsets emit a beep whenever a picture is taken.

"New camera-equipped phones are required to make a sound with at least a 65-decibel level when a picture is taken and the function can't be switched off if users change their phone to a silent mode," the telecommunications ministry said in a statement.

Parliament is considering other measures to address privacy issues stemming from the intrusive use of camera phones and digital cameras.

Over the past year, South Koreans have bought more than four million camera-equipped phones and it is commonplace to see people taking pictures of their friends, themselves and just about anything else in view.

In one notable case, a woman used her camera phone to snap naked women in one of the country's popular public sauna baths, and then sold the photographs to an Internet Web site.

In a country where people change their mobile phones every two years on average, one-fifth of mobile phones in use are equipped with a camera, industry sources say.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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